McKinney R.J. Carver

McKinney senior R.J. Carver runs for yardage during Thursday’s game against Skyline at McKinney ISD Stadium.

For three quarters, it was a struggle for McKinney’s offense.

McKinney’s defense did its part. The Lions surrendered less than 100 yards of offense to Skyline and even had an interception return for a touchdown. But McKinney, like Skyline, struggled to generate points.

All it took was one play to energize McKinney’s offense.

A 30-yard run by senior Omari Walker led to the first of two fourth-quarter touchdowns for Lions junior quarterback Sampson Nazarko as McKinney went on to defeat Skyline 21-13 on Thursday at McKinney ISD Stadium. Nazarko rushed for an 8-yard score the play after Walker’s long run and added a 60-yard touchdown pass to senior Cameron Rivas later in the quarter.

“Credit to Skyline,” said Marcus Shavers, McKinney head coach. “They have always had an opportunistic defense and they presented some challenges for us early in the game. Our guys just kept fighting, plugging away and came away with a gutsy win against a really good team.”

Walker’s track-like speed weighed heavily into the decision by McKinney’s coaching staff to insert the senior at running back. 

“When you’ve got a guy that can ran a 10.5 (seconds) time in the 100 (-meter dash), you’ve got to find creative ways to get him going,” Shavers said. “It felt like it was the right time to run it, and it worked for us.”

Nazarko watched the first half from the sideline before coming into the game in the third quarter.

Nazarko overcame back-to-back fumbles in his first series under center and drove McKinney (2-1) down the field for the go-ahead score in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. He completed 3-of-5 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in relief of Ja’Kobe Walton. Walton completed 3-of-4 passes for 25 yards and also rushed for 16 yards on nine carries.

Skyline (0-1) immediately answered.

Darryl Richardson caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ma’Leeyon Winfield with 9:23 left. But, the extra point was blocked. McKinney led 14-13.

McKinney turned to a little trickery on its next drive.

Not wanting to give the ball back to a potent Skyline offense, McKinney went for it on fourth-and-six at the Lion 34. Senior R.J. Carver took the direct snap and ran 6 yards on the fake punt to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, Nazarko found Rivas wide open on a crossing route and Rivas ran 60 yards for the score and a 21-13 Lions lead with 5:38 remaining.

“We needed some momentum,” Shavers said. “We needed a drive offensively. Any time that it is less than 5 yards, we’ve got a fake punt. Our special teams coordinator does a great job. He did a great job dialing it up, and credit to our guys for executing it.”

Carver was a significant contributor in all three phases. He led McKinney in rushing with 41 yards and on defense had a few sacks that created for long-yardage situations for Skyline.

McKinney’s defense iced the win after a strip sack and fumble recovery by senior Jacob Lefort.

The Lions’ defense was steadfast throughout the night, keeping an explosive Raider offense in check to the tune of 124 total yards.

The Raiders were playing in the first game of the season after COVID-19 concerns at Lancaster cancelled that matchup.

The rust showed. Skyline struggled to get in the play calls before the expiration of the play clock and had to burn all three of their timeouts of the first half before the end of the first quarter.

McKinney’s defense took advantage of that rust.

Adrian Shepherd intercepted a swing pass that was thrown high, tipped by the intended Skyline wide-out and returned 39 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 Lions lead with 6:12 remaining in the first quarter.

The Raiders didn’t let the mistake rattle them.

Skyline drove 66 yards for a touchdown on its next possession. Carver forced the Raiders into fourth-and-goal from the 26 after recording back-to-back sacks. But on that fourth-down play, Skyline quarterback Ma’Leeyon Winfield connected with Quaydarius Davis for a touchdown pass and a 7-7 tie.

Winfield was one of two quarterbacks the Raiders used in the game. He alternated playing time with Jaylon Robinson.

McKinney crossed midfield on its next drive and got all the way to the Skyline 30 before an incomplete pass on fourth down created a turnover on downs.

With time winding down in the first half, Skyline positioned itself to take the lead. A 31-yard run by Qualon Farmer gave the Raiders a first down at the Lion 35.

But without any timeouts remaining as well as dealing with a running clock, Skyline struggled in the two-minute drill. Carver sacked Winfield a few plays later. The clock continued to run. The Raiders got off one final heave into the end zone as time expired but that pass fell incomplete.

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